How Paul Prayed for Philemon

After revealing the author and recipients of this letter and then giving his typical greeting, Paul in Philemon 1:4 begins his main message to Philemon. And interestingly enough – he begins by revealing how he prays for this man.

I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers,

Paul Thanks God for Philemon

The first thing that Paul wants Philemon to know is that he thanks God his God. This is that God the Father that he mentioned in Philemon 1:3 who gives grace and peace. He’s the one common Father of all believers – Philemon, Paul, and everyone else. And it’s to this God that Paul gives thanks.

Paul Prayed for Philemon

But what is it that’s encouraging Paul to give thanks to his God in this context? Paul gives thanks to his God when he makes mention of Philemon in his prayers.

As Paul prayed, he would apparently often/all the time/”always” think of this beloved fellow-worker of his. And as he thought of Philemon he couldn’t help but gives thanks to God for him.

Why Give Thanks?

And Paul continues in Philemon 1:5 to explain what it is that makes him thank his God for this brother.

Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints;

This hearing that Paul mentions is what prompts him to make mention always of Philemon – which in turn causes the apostle to give thanks to his God for this beloved fellow-worker.

What Had Paul Heard?

Paul has heard of Philemon’s love and faith. And he says that Philemon has these two things toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints.

Philemon Loved Jesus and Believers

It’s easy to see how Philemon would have love for both Jesus and his fellow sanctified ones (“saints”). Just the fact that Philemon hosted a local assembly of believers in his home is enough to strongly indicate his love for Christ and his followers.

In addition, Philemon – through his labors with Paul and Timothy – had become one whom they considered to be a beloved fellow-worker. One who has no love for Jesus Christ or his people would not be thought of in this way by someone as spiritually mature as the apostle Paul.

Philemon Trusted Jesus Christ

So, it’s easy to see how Philemon could be said to have love for Christ and other believers. It’s also easy to see how Philemon had faith toward (προς) Jesus. Paul says in Ephesians 2 that we’re saved by grace through faith. This is the starting point for the Christian – faith in Jesus Christ to save him from his sin.

Philemon Had Faith… Toward Saints???

But how can it be said that Philemon has faith toward (εις) all the saints?

First of all, notice the different preposition in Greek as it relates to Jesus (προς) and to the saints (εις). Philemon has love and faith pros Jesus Christ and eis all the saints. He uses different prepositions to apply those two realities to both Jesus and believers.

Then what we have is the possibility that eis means something more like among rather than toward. Philemon has/demonstrates/acts out love and faith as he lives among his fellow-believers.

Back to Why Paul Prays for Philemon

And so, in Philemon 1:6, Paul goes back to an idea he started in verse 4. There he was thanking God as he made mention of Philemon.

Then he took a short detour in verse 5 and seemed to want to express what caused him to make mention of Philemon – that he was hearing of this man’s faith and love.

But now, Paul wants to get back to speaking of why he makes constant mention of Philemon. He does this so…

That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.

This is why Paul makes constant mention of Philemon to the Lord. So that the communication or of his faith may become effectual.

What does that mean?

Philemon Shared Because of His Faith

Another way that communication is translated is fellowship. And it’s a fellowship of Philemon’s faith. It’s what he shares in common with other believers through or because of his faith.

What does Philemon share in common with other believers as a result of his trusting Jesus Christ? Well, we’ve seen that Philemon shares his physical home in common with other believers – the church that was meeting in his house. He did this solely because of his faith in Christ.

Philemon’s Sharing Needs to Become Effectual?

And that was a good sign – that he was sharing even his own home in common with other believers because of his faith in Christ. But why does Paul need to pray that this sharing would become effectual?

The word effectual is a Greek word from which we get the term energetic. So, Paul is wanting Philemon’s sharing to become more and more energetic or operative or lively. Why does he want that?

Paul Wants Philemon to Share His Former Servant

Well, we’re going to see later on in this book that Paul is wanting Philemon to share a former slave of his named Philemon. And so, Paul starts off his letter to this man that seeks something of his by admitting that he does pray for Philemon to grow in his sharing of his things.

What Helps Us Share?

And Paul says that this sharing will become more operative by the acknowledging every good thing that is in “you [all]” in Christ Jesus.

Isn’t it often easier to share when you know how many good things you really have from Christ? How much more easily we can part with the trinkets of this life by lending them to others when we know how much treasure we truly have in this life and in the life to come.

In Christ, the believer has everything he needs and more. So, Paul is praying that God would help Philemon to see how much good he and his family and church have (you is plural, after all) because of Christ. And he then seems to hope that this will cause Philemon to hold everything in this life – including his servant Onesimus – with a loose hand, willing to share with others.

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

Luke 18:9-14

In this post we’re going to study the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. You can find that parable in Luke 18:9-14.

The Audience (Luke 18:9)

Luke 18:9 tells us for whose sake the Lord Jesus Christ spoke this parable.

So, that’s the audience. That’s whom Jesus is speaking to. He’s addressing the kind of person who: 1) trusts in himself and thinks he’s righteous and 2) who thinks little of others.

Are you that kind of person?

Do you think you’re a good person? Are you confident that you are better than others? Are you proud of that fact? Are you trusting in your own goodness? Do you despise those people whom you think are less righteous than you are?

If you’re like that, then this message is for you straight from the Lord Jesus Christ. He’s speaking to you right now. Listen.

The Parable (Luke 18:10-14)

The Scene (Luke 18:10)

Jesus starts to tell a story in Luke 18:10.

Two Guys

So, here these two guys are.

Pharisee

The first guy is a Pharisee. He’s religious. He’s viewed as a model of religious devotion. In Jesus’ days you couldn’t exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees. This man was righteous – he was a good man – and he knew it and others knew it.

Tax Collector

The other guy is a publican – a tax collector. Do any of you still have to file your own taxes? When you last filed your taxes, was that a pleasant experience? Some people aren’t too happy with the IRS these days, and it wasn’t any different in Jesus’ day. The Jews in Jesus’ time viewed tax collectors as traitors and almost sub-human.

Summary of the Two Guys

So, we have one really good guy and one really bad guy.

The Temple

And where are these two? Luke 18:10 says that they’re in the Temple. They’re in the place of worship. The place where God’s people gather to praise and worship him. And they’ve come to pray.

Now, no one would be surprised to see the Pharisee in the place of worship in order to pray to God. But I think the appearance of the tax collector might have turned some heads. A man like that might not make it to the Temple very often. He certainly wouldn’t have been welcomed by most people.

The Prayers (Luke 18:11-13)

But nevertheless, they both show up at the Temple in order to pray. And in Luke 18:11-13, we get to hear the prayer of each of these men.

The Pharisee’s Prayer (Luke 18:11-12)

Jesus starts with the prayer of the Pharisee in Luke 18:11-12. So, let’s note a few things about this prayer.

Focus on Self

The content of this prayer is all about the Pharisee himself. He addresses God, but really the prayer is focused on himself.

He’s Not Bad

In Luke 18:11 he thanks God that he isn’t like other people. He’s not a extortioner – he doesn’t obtain things through force or fraud. He’s not unjust or an outwardly sinful person. He’s not an adulterer – he doesn’t commit adultery with someone who isn’t his wife. And he’s probably most thankful of all for the fact that he’s not like this tax collector who came up to the Temple to pray.

He’s Good

Then in Luke 18:12 the Pharisee shifts his focus from what he doesn’t do to what he does positively do. He fasts twice a week. He denies himself food for the sake of prayer two times every week. He also gives one-tenth of all that he owned.

Summary

So, taken together, this prayer to God consists of thanksgiving for what the Pharisee was not followed by a bare statement of what he was doing right.

Application

Have you ever prayed this kind of prayer yourself? When you communicate with God, are you always talking about yourself and how good you are and how bad others are?

Have you ever heard this kind of prayer from others? What if you entered this service and the man who leads the people in prayer stood up and thanked God that he wasn’t like all the rest of you folks out in the audience here – and then he proceeded to list all of the good things about himself. What would you think about that?

We’re going to find out what God thinks about that kind of prayer in a few minutes.

The Tax Collector’s Prayer (Luke 18:13)

But first, let’s read Luke 18:13 where we get to hear the prayer of the tax collector and notice a few things.

Similarities Between the Prayers

Now, there are a few similarities between the prayer of the tax collector and that of the Pharisee.

The tax collector and the Pharisee were both in the Temple – the place of worship. They both prayed – they directed their words to God. They both stood up as they did this. They both even spoke of themselves as they prayed.

Differences Between the Prayers

Content

But while the Pharisee stood proudly and proclaimed his own goodness in contrast to the wickedness of everyone else around him – this tax collector was focused only on his own wickedness and on God’s ability to pardon his great sinfulness.

Posture

Notice the posture of the tax collector as he prays. He stands just like the Pharisee stood. But he refuses to even lift his eyes to heaven. The weight and shame of his own sinfulness wouldn’t allow it. He beat upon his chest in sorrow over his sins.

Request

And the tax collector’s words are addressed to God just like the Pharisee’s were. But he’s asking God for something. The Pharisee apparently didn’t feel the need to receive anything from God. He was good. He didn’t need a thing – or so he thought. But this tax collector knows he needs mercy from the Lord. He needs his sins to be forgiven. He needs peace with God.

Confession

Why does he need peace with God? Because he knows he’s a sinner. Literally, he’s “the sinner”. There are other sinners around, but he’s not thinking about them. He’s thinking about himself. The Pharisee also was thinking about himself – but he was thinking about his own goodness. The tax collector was thinking about his own badness and sinfulness and unworthiness to stand before God.

Application

Have you ever communicated to God like that? Have you ever humbly confessed your own sinfulness to him? Have you ever asked him for mercy?

God’s Response (Luke 18:14)

If you do, then Jesus ends this parable telling you what you can expect if you pray to God with a tender heart and a heart broken by the weight of your sin against a holy God in Luke 18:14.

Righteousness

Jesus says that the sinful wretched tax collector was justified. He was declared righteous. This parable started off with Jesus addressing those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous. This Pharisee was one such man – he trusted in himself that he was righteous. But ultimately, who is Jesus saying was declared by God as being righteous? It’s the sinful tax collector who was so grieved over his own sin and so humbled before God. That’s the kind of person whom God will justify.

But the Pharisee – as externally good and righteous as he thought he was and as he appeared to be in the eyes of others – his prayer didn’t accomplish anything. He came to the Temple thinking that he was righteous, but he leaves with Jesus’ evaluation of him that he was not righteous after all.

Why? Why would the sinner walk away from the Temple righteous while the externally righteous man walks away unrighteous? End of Luke 18:14.

Two Choices

Here’s the point. There are two actions under discussion – exalting and humbling. Every one of us has the choice of doing one or the other for ourselves. We can exalt ourselves or we can humble ourselves.

Exalt Self

If we exalt ourselves – if we’re lifted up with pride over our own goodness – if we think that we’re good in God’s sight – then Jesus Christ promises that we will be forcibly humbled.

Humble Self

But if we humble ourselves – if we acknowledge our own sin and unrighteousness – if our hearts are broken by the weight of our sin against a holy and totally-righteous God – then Jesus Christ promises that he will exalt us. He will justify us. He will declare us righteous.

Application

Where are you today? Are you’re the proud self-righteous person whom God will need to humble? Or are you the humble sinner who knows your need of mercy from God – the God who promises to resist the proud but to give grace to the humble?

A Summary of Jeremiah 7 – 20

Jeremiah 7-20

Jeremiah 7–10 | Disobedience Outweighs External Devotion

Jeremiah 7-10 have God proclaiming that Judah’s Disobedience Far Outweighs Their External Religious Devotion.

God makes it clear to Judah through Jeremiah that he’s not interested in religious exercises without true obedience. He will destroy the Temple and exile Judah if they continue their unrepentant idolatry and falsehood.

And even though the Lord holds out the possibility of Judah repenting, he goes so far as to command Jeremiah to not pray for his disobedient, unrepentant, and idolatrous people.

In times past God sent prophets to his people and they haven’t listened. Neither will they listen to Jeremiah.

Judah is then portrayed as wanting to flee from the coming exile and Jeremiah echoes that sentiment.

This section ends with a plea for God to judge the nations who threaten Judah’s existence – even though those nations are being used by the Lord to judge his people.

(Also pay attention to mentions of “wisdom” or “wise men” in this section.)

Jeremiah 11–12 | Covenant & Conspiracy

On to Jeremiah 11:1-12:17. I give the label of Covenant & Conspiracy to this section.

The people of Judah conspire:

  1. Against the Lord’s covenant to disobey both him and it and
  2. Against Jeremiah to kill him.

God tells Jeremiah to not pray for Judah — just like in the last section — and that things will get worse. In fact, Judah will be exiled along with her neighbors. But her neighbors will be allowed to return if they repent in captivity.

Jeremiah 13 | Waistband

In Jeremiah 13 we see the story about the Waistband/Belt.

Perhaps in the days of Jeconiah God has Jeremiah give Judah an object lesson involving a ruined waistband. Just like the waistband, Judah will be ruined. God will make them drunk and will destroy them. He will exile the king and the king’s mother – which is why I think this is in Jeconiah’s day. God will do all this because of Judah’s spiritual and even literal prostitution.

Jeremiah 14–15 | Drought

Jeremiah 14 and 15 stem from a Drought that God sent to Judah at some point, which Jeremiah pictures with words.

Also pictured is Judah’s crying out to the Lord about it, whether they actually did or not. They should have, obviously.

But God cannot remove the punishment of drought because of the people’s disobedience.

God tells Jeremiah again to not pray for the people because of their wickedness.

Jeremiah points out to God that the prophets are deceiving the people. God acknowledges that and pronounces curses on both prophets and people.

Jeremiah laments his birth and God assures him that if he does right then God will deliver him from the coming punishment.

Jeremiah 16–17 | Sympathy & Sabbath

I label Jeremiah 16 and 17 as Sympathy & Sabbath.

Jeremiah is told to not have a family nor to mourn with the people nor rejoice with them — in other words, have no sympathy.

God promises a restoration of the people in the future but not in a very positive manner – hunters and fishers will bring them back, indicating harm done in the process. Jeremiah responds with praise to the Lord.

The Lord issues blessings and cursings and ultimately has Jeremiah remind the people to keep the Sabbath.

Jeremiah 18–20 | Potter, Pot, Passhur

Jeremiah 18-20 speak of the following three things – and they all begin with the same English letter – P:

  • The Potter
  • The Pot
  • Passhur

The Lord gives Jeremiah a picture of how he deals with nations by showing him a potter destroying his work and rebuilding it. Jeremiah communicates this to Judah and they refuse to listen and instead they plot schemes to kill him.

Jeremiah complains to the Lord about this and the Lord tells him to take a clay pot, smash it in front of the leaders of Judah, and proclaim judgement against them.

Passhur the priest hears this message and beats and imprisons Jeremiah. Jeremiah utters the Lord’s word of judgement to Passhur.

The section ends with Jeremiah struggling with the Lord and actually wishing he had been aborted before birth.